NYC's Towns retiring after 30 years in Congress

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By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Edolphus Towns, the Democratic congressman from New York City who was a longtime political stalwart for his working-class Brooklyn district, won't be running for a 16th term, his office said Monday.

Towns assistant Allan Joseph told The Associated Press that the 77-year-old lawmaker will retire in January after 30 years in Congress.

Towns, who would have faced a three-way Democratic primary, said in a statement that he made the decision after months of family discussions, but "I believe firmly that we would have won a 16th term had we decided to run."

During his time in Congress, he said he brought millions of dollars of improvements to neighborhoods including Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Canarsie, Brownsville, Fort Greene, Midwood, Clinton Hill, Mill Basin, Boreum Hill and parts of Williamsburg and Cypress Hills.

Towns says he fought Wall Street corruption as chairman of the congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and helped to bring health care to uninsured Americans.

He also sat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Towns "a dedicated public servant" who "worked to improve the lives of others." In a statement, she said Towns "never forgot his roots as a social worker, fighting for the less fortunate and offering a powerful voice for justice."

The congressman gave no specific reason for his decision.

Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said that while Towns accrued seniority and "some influence" in Congress, the widespread belief was "that this might be it for him."

The congressman has made little effort to position himself for re-election.

"He didn't raise funds, didn't go to endorsement meetings, didn't do the things you'd do if you were running," said Muzzio.

Towns would have faced one of the toughest primary challenges of his career on June 26 from state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

New York City Councilman Charles Barron also is running for Towns' seat.

"It would have been a really bruising primary, requiring a very, very active campaign," Muzzio said. "And maybe he figured there was a good possibility he would lose, so he might as well walk out under his own power rather than be carried out in an electoral box."

In addition, Towns has become politically vulnerable in the wake of other setbacks.

In May, he failed to win a district leader seat in the Kings County Democratic Party.

Redistricting will bring in more white voters to the mostly black district, "and Jeffries, given his more eclectic approach and base, would appeal to those voters," Muzzio said. He said that Jeffries, who is black, "has reached across racial, ethnic and class lines."

The son of a North Carolina sharecropper, Towns was first elected to Congress in 1982.

Previously, he was Brooklyn's first black deputy borough president, and before that, an administrator at the city's Beth Israel Medical Center.

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